HANDS ARE THE TOOLS OF OUR BRAIN

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“Many of our greatest thinkers locate their capacity for original and profound thought in their imaginative abilities, first developed through creative play in early childhood.”   – Sharna Olfman Psychology Professor Point Park University.

So I believe all the energies and research should be diverted to what’s happening in the early years. It’s been a tradition of educationists to look for better ways of teaching and creating the best learning environment. One of the reasons why educationists are always curious might include the following queries:

  • Is present day system of education lacking something?
  • Are we looking for some short cuts to get the desired results?
  • Are we trying to find the connection between a teacher and the learning process?
  • Have we done enough evaluation of the current system of education?
  • Are we really producing a generation of Robots devoid of Creativity out of our current system?
  • Are we looking to change the roles of teachers?
  • Are we ready to view teachers as Independent thinkers? and many more….

But the most important question is how the natural learning happens? One of the solution can be to study children in their natural habitat. Children create their natural habitat anywhere whenever they are allowed to breathe freely without the undue interference and instructions of adults.  There are lots of thinkers and researchers who have studied children in their natural habitat.  John Locke revived Aristotle’s views with the concept that the child’s mind is a blank tablet (tabula rasa) that gets shaped and formed by his/her own experiences. Jean-Jacques Rousseau celebrated the concept of childhood and felt that children should be allowed to develop naturally. He believed that a child learns about life through his experiences in life.

John Holt, wrote in his book How Children Learn: “The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him. He does not shut himself off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and suspense. .” Jean Piaget emphasized that students create knowledge rather than receive knowledge from the teacher, based on their experiences, and that how they do so is related to their biological, physical, and mental stage of development. Piaget spent many years observing very young children. According to John Dewey, learning happens when children interact with the environment through experience. “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally resuIts”. In Italy, Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952), introduced a liberated concept of early childhood education that provided more opportunity for free expression, moving children away from their desks, providing them with activities, and respecting children as individuals. Like Dewey, she believed that students learn through carefully chosen activities.

As Researchers studied children in their natural habitat, scientist like Albert Einstein came up with their own experiences as a discovery about human learning, he declared, “Play is the highest form of research”. This gives rise to many modern thinkers to explore the free play of a child on one hand and to those who keep coming up with ideas to create the environment where children thrive, on the other.

THE RISE OF MAKER’S MOVEMENT:

The Makers Movement is a community of hobbyists, tinkerers, engineers, hackers, and artists who creatively design and build projects for both playful and useful ends. There is growing interest among educators in bringing making into K-12 education to enhance opportunities to engage in the practices of engineering, specifically, and STEM more broadly.

*The name and the idea of a Maker Movement can be traced to the 2005 founding of Make magazine and the first Maker Faire in 2006 (‘‘Leading the Maker Movement’’) but the basic idea of making comes out of longstanding hobbies and craft activities such as woodworking, sewing,  and electronics. These pursuits have been renewing and opened up in recent years through the advent of digital fabrication tools and online networks that make it easy to share, critique, and compare ideas, designs, and project information.

THE BIG IDEA: THE HAND IS THE TOOL OF MIND:

The Maker Movement is a new phenomenon, but it is built from familiar pieces, and its application to education has deep roots. It has long been argued that children and youth can learn by playing and building with interesting tools and materials. The hand, Montessori says, is used to express one’s thoughts, emotions, and intellect. This can be supported by viewing the development of human intelligence. As early humans became upright, walking on two legs, their hands became tools used to work — to hunt, gather food, and make primitive weapons. Early humans were able to control and change their environment through the use of their hands. “All the changes in man’s environment are brought about by his hands. Really, it might seem as if the whole business of intelligences is to guide their work.” (Montessori, 1964)

This new movement has fundamentally changed the perception of Educators who never simply trusted the child before. They came to realize that:

  • A child is naturally curious to know about the world around him.
  • A child has the intrinsic motivation to explore his surrounding.
  • A child has an intense amount of concentration waiting to dive deeply into the problem.
  • A child will continue to explore and analyze until the discovery is made in the form of solution or more ideas.
  • A child will exhibit prompt sharing of that knowledge with others in his surrounding.
  • And finally he will reflect on those ideas already established by him.
  • A child will thus engage in that process until he is moved to a new idea of testing another Hypothesis.
  • The child is thus creative in all these process!

These discoveries are made by Scientists using the method of ‘Scientific Observation’. And the question arises ‘DO TEACHERS OR EDUCATIONISTS REALLY OBSERVE THAT WAY?’ In the words of Dr. Montessori, “The teacher must derive not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon”.

The educator must observe the natural learning process with an eye of a scientist, and once he is started using that lense he will come up with the same observations. According to the Swedish neurophysiologist Matti Bergstrom:

“The density of nerve endings in our fingertips is enormous. Their discrimination is almost as good as that of our eyes. If we don’t use our fingers, if in childhood and youth we become “finger-blind,” this rich network of nerves is impoverished—which represents a huge loss to the brain and thwarts the individual’s all-around development. Such damage may be likened to blindness itself. Perhaps worse, while a blind person may simply not be able to find this or that object, the finger-blind cannot understand its inner meaning and value. If we neglect to develop and train our children’s fingers and the creative form building capacity of their hand muscles, then we neglect to develop their understanding of the unity of things; we thwart their aesthetic and creative powers. Those who shaped our age-old traditions always understood this. But today, Western civilization, an information-obsessed society that overvalues science and undervalues true worth, has forgotten it all. We are “value-damaged.” The philosophy of our upbringing is science-centered, and our schools are programmed toward that end. . ..These schools have no time for the creative potential of the nimble fingers and hand, and that arrests the all-round development of our children — and of the whole community. (Hand movement sculpt intelligence by Arthur Aeur).

 

(Second part of this series ‘hands are the tools of mind’ will come soon)

Contact Erum: paradigmshiftineducation@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARE WE EDUCATING…..

ARE WE REALLY EDUCATING?
When I started my career as a teacher, I never thought I would end up as a Researcher, Play advocate, Nature lover and Child Rights activist. I began as a traditional teacher, ready to ‘instruct’, monitor, test andmeasure the results ….almost every time I interacted with my students. But soon some thoughts started popping up in my mind. I was feeling stressed most of the time and wanted to quit the teaching job…For a year or so I struggled thinking that might be I didn’t have the desired teaching skills or must be kids were too bad to learn anything.
“My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself.”
– George Bernard Shaw
https://childrenandnaturenetworkasia.wordpress.com/…/are-w…/

CNNA

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AS I DISCOVERED…..When I started my career as a teacher, I never thought I would end up as a Researcher, Play advocate, Nature lover and Child Rights activist. I began as a traditional teacher, ready to ‘instruct’, monitor, test andmeasure the results ….almost every time I interacted with my students. But soon some thoughts started popping up in my mind. I was feeling stressed most of the time and wanted to quit the teaching job…For a year or so I struggled thinking that might be I didn’t have the desired teaching skills or must be kids were too bad to learn anything.

“My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself.”
– George Bernard Shaw

That particular…

View original post 1,574 more words

ARE WE EDUCATING…..

pic3

AS I DISCOVERED…..When I started my career as a teacher, I never thought I would end up as a Researcher, Play advocate, Nature lover and Child Rights activist. I began as a traditional teacher, ready to ‘instruct’, monitor, test andmeasure the results ….almost every time I interacted with my students. But soon some thoughts started popping up in my mind. I was feeling stressed most of the time and wanted to quit the teaching job…For a year or so I struggled thinking that might be I didn’t have the desired teaching skills or must be kids were too bad to learn anything.

“My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself.”
– George Bernard Shaw

That particular feeling took me to a different world of research, where I started finding out how could I improve my skills and teach in a manner that kids could understand and most importantly I wanted to explore how children learn naturally. That journey shook my own belief systems about education and how it could be defined. So I decided to do a more diversified research of my own which led me to get my Montessori Diploma under the umbrella of American Montessori Society. That proved to be the 8th wonder of my life (my previous life experiences served as 7 wonders). Maria’s scientific research and observation not only changed my belief systems about learning but changed me as a person. Someone rightly said that the difference between Montessori training and other teacher’s training is that teachers are professionally trained in most of the other systems of education while one is spiritually trained in a Montessori way of life.

So  I re-appeared as a change agent , to help humanity find the higher purpose of life by providing little children the best start in their life all through Natural learning process. The training invaded my dead soul, which was treating kids as a passive learner: like a dump, like an idiot who don’t have his own say or thought. Now I could see how beautiful kids are, how much they know (better than me), how much natural curiosity they have and how amazingly they explore the environment just like a scientist which leads them to discover the hidden truths of nature. I made myself clear that what I needed to do is just a tap into their Imagination, the rest they will take care of it.

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
– Albert Einstein

Through all my years, I could see how children dive into an Imaginary world, where they exist with their own fantasy : it’s wonderful to witness their wilderness and curiosity. I was wondering and feeling ashamed how we adult think about children , how much we underestimate their powers, their motivation level, their curiosity, and sense of discovery….it’s like I’m discovering human beings on my own apart from what I knew about them.

Every child learns in his own way, and construct his mind. It is amazing to see that each one experience a unique way of observing, analyzing, grasping and using the acquired knowledge in his own unique way.As my journey continued, I started exploring more deeply, and became more interested into knowing How each child learn naturally rather than focusing on How I made them learn the way I choose.

So Its best for teachers to Observe children learning in their own natural way and then facilitate the process.I believe this is individual’s  unique learning , which cannot be generalized and Forced upon every other child.

Amazing discoveries kept bombarded my senses and I was recording those facts to see how we as adults underestimate the Power of Play in the learning process.

Observing the natural Play of children, I discovered another truth that Nature is a force to tap the natural CURIOSITY in children which automatically guides them to Explore.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”
– John Lubbock

The “immense concentration of a child” is the natural outcome when he works in nature, we need not to do anything to build up the span his attention or speed up his curiosity or raise his concentration level. It’s already there in their SOULS. Stickers and behavior Charts (artificial reward systems) never work in reality, it only makes a child greedy and ignorant.

No use to shout at them to pay attention. If the situations, the materials, the problems before the child do not interest him, his attention will slip off to what does interest him, and no amount of exhortation of threats will bring it back.”
– John Holt

Children can never be seen so satisfied as can be seen when they reach their Goals and targets by themselves .And it is not we (adults) who can direct them towards their UNIQUE GOALS , its embedded inside them and they are the best judges and leaders of their destiny, if only we can think differently .

In the words of Maria Montessori, “When children come into contact with NATURE, they reveal their strength”.

As for Play itself, I discovered amazing realities. For a child Play is not a luxury, it’s the natural mechanism in a human child to learn while he is exploring the environment freely. Play is a way of grasping the new world, investigating new ideas, exploring the unleashed powers of the environment, examining the differences of facts and fictions, digging the strength of human potential. Play is the way a child enters into the world of reality although it seems that he exists in a fairytale world. It’s a process of natural transformation into an adult life.

The best definition of play should recognize the ‘tendency of a child to immerse deeply into a world of his own, making new neural pathways to develop and eventually moving towards the next possible level of understanding’.

Play cannot be confined to any particular environment but it covers the vast area of human engagement. The most visible is the Free-play of a child, where all his actions are spontaneous. But even in the most controlled and structured environment play makes its own unique appearance by the fact that the child is always playing in his mind, an example of which can be seen in a classroom where teacher is strictly controlling the child’s behavior but he is always trying to get out of this prison by showing his spontaneous engagement with his imagination minute after minute.

4 Principles now rule my research as a Nature/ Play Curriculum developer;

  1. What is not Education; “Education is not something which a teacher does, but [is] a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child”. Maria Montessori
  1. What we should be avoiding as an educator; in the words of Dr. Montessori“How can we speak of Democracy or Freedom when from the very beginning of life we mould the child to undergo tyranny, to obey a dictator? How can we expect democracy when we have reared slaves? Real freedom begins at the beginning of life, not at the adult stage. These people who have been diminished in their powers, made short- sighted, devitalized by mental fatigue, whose bodies have become distorted, whose wills have been broken by elders who says, “you will must disappear and mine prevail! How can we expect them when school life is finished – to accept and use the Rights of Freedom?”
  1. Trust the child:All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” John Holt
  2. The actual role of a teacher; “Praise, help, or even a look, may be enough to interrupt him, or destroy the activity. It seems a strange thing to say, but this can happen even if the child merely becomes aware of being watched. After all, we too sometimes feel unable to go on working if someone comes to see what we are doing. The great principle which brings success to the teacher is this: as soon as concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist. Naturally, one can see what he is doing with a quick glance, but without his being aware of it“. Maria Montessori

Now when I am researching more deeply, developing curriculums, started Teacher’s training, I would just add few lines what I feel a teacher should be trained at.

The vision of the teacher should be at once precise like that of the scientist, and spiritual like that of the saint. The preparation for science and the preparation for sanctity should form a new soul, for the attitude of the teacher should be at once positive, scientific and spiritual”.Maria Montessori

This is what I think I am doing differently as an educator. We should focus on how to be a Change agent in this world when working with children because change can only happen when we start spending time and effort on Observing children rather than spending time to create Standardized Tests and grading their work which can never be evaluated but by themselves.

Teachers can be really inspiring…….

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
– Rachel Carson

Written by Erum

Trainer at CNNA, to make this world a better place for our children

Are You Disorganized? Research Says That’s a Good Thing

TIME

In Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson posits that “the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are” in reference to the results of a neuroscience experiment by Robert Thatcher.

Across the board, in Johnson’s book and other sources it seems pretty clear that creativity is messy.

Ideas need to be sloshing around or crashing in to one another to produce breakthroughs:

  • Studying a field “too much” doesn’t limit creativity…

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CHILDHOOD GUILT LEADS TO ADULT DEPRESSION AND OTHER MENTAL DISORDERS

Listen to our new TALK ON RESEARCH BEHIND THE GUILT with our Experts

Scientists now believe that extreme feelings of guilt in children, such as the ones Thomas felt, can be a strong warning sign for mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and bipolar disorder later on in life. Research has long linked excessive feelings of guilt to mental disorders in adults—the DSM-V lists feelings of excessive guilt as a symptom for depression. But researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have found that excessive guilt in children might be linked to a part of the brain that is connected to controls for several different mental disorders.

In addition, this research provides neurological evidence for what researchers have been starting to suspect: Guilt in early childhood has negative effects on children and may cause later life depression and anxiety. In a study published in 2013 by scientists at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, researchers found that parenting tactics that created feelings of guilt in children caused children to feel an increase in distress and anger for many days afterward. In another study published in 2003, scientists found that children whose parents used guilt-inducing tactics were far more likely to internalize their problems. Depression and anxiety are classic examples of internalizing disorders.

Source:
THE ATLANTIC

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HOW EDUCATION DIPLOMACY CAN CONNECT GLOBAL EDUCATORS

DISCOVER THE POWER OF EDUCATION DIPLOMACY….
LIVE INTERVIEW OF ACEI MEMBER GEORGIANNA DUARTE ON EDUCATION DIPLOMACY AND THE ROLE OF ACEI…..
CNNA latest work on Education Diplomacy.
Finding solutions to complex societal problems within the context of new global realities requires a different set of skills than those traditionally applied by career diplomats or professional consultants. The distinguishing competencies of education diplomacy, as practiced by education diplomats, consist of the quality and level of technical expertise and understanding of education policy and human rights, and, when practiced on the international level, the ability to build relationships and further education agendas within the global education arena. The importance of education as a bridge for promoting peace, global security, and sustainable solutions to complex human problems is a core concept of education diplomacy.
http://vimeo.com/117676777

PLAY IS THE DISCOVERY FOR A CHILD – IT IS THE REAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

Play is the basic right of every child whether he is living in the most modern cities of New York or Paris, or living in any of the third world countries where people are still struggling for other basic human rights like food and clean water. Play is not a luxury, it is a way of grasping the new world, investigating new ideas, exploring the unleashed powers of the environment, examining the differences of facts and fictions, digging the strength of human potential.

Play is the way a child enters into the world of reality although it seems that he exists in a fairy tale world. It is a process of natural transformation into an adult life. The best definition of play should recognize the *tendency of a child to immerse deeply into a world of his own, making new neural pathways and eventually moving towards the next possible level of understanding.* Play cannot be confined to any particular environment but it covers the vast area of human engagement. The most visible is the free-play of a child, where all his actions are spontaneous. But even in the most controlled and structured environment play makes its own unique appearance by the fact that the child is always playing in his mind, an example of which can be seen in a classroom where teacher is strictly controlling the child’s behavior but he is always trying to get out of this prison by showing his spontaneous engagement with his imagination minute after minute.

BORN LEARNERS.. NATURE

 

There are certain factors which are responsible why many educators are ignoring the child’s play in establishing the early childhood education. Among educationists *how to get kids to learn* is more popular than *looking how kids learn themselves* and funding agencies spend millions on developing educational modules rather than observing kids in their natural surroundings to see how they learn. Secondly traditional schools were formed on the structure of prison and factory, so they do not function to instill skills and ideas but teach obedience and doctrine. And finally over-indulgence in academics is also a major cause: in the words of William James, “only a mind polluted by too much immersion in academia could possibly think about children for long without thinking about play and curiosity”.

There are some other factors also which contribute towards the negligence of play in schools. They include; competition based curriculum, standardized testing, grading system which focus on the results rather the learning processes, adult-directed environment and measuring all children on one scale. Under these circumstances natural curiosity in children is killed, where teacher ask questions rather than a child who is curious about his learning.

PLAY IS LEARNING

 

But contrary to what schools do, researchers have long been proving about the freedom which is needed for the human soul to learn, explore and experiment. As pointed out by John Holt, Piaget, Maria Montessori and others, free exploration is the basis of all learning and it can only be possible when the environment is designed in a way keeping the natural learning tendencies in children. In the words of Dr. Montessori, “Education is not something which a teacher does, but [is] a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.”

Free exploration is possible with special kind of environment where there are plenty of exploratory materials that invite a child to involve in a self-initiative way. Mixed age group provides younger kids to associate with whom they please and learn from older ones while older can learn to care the younger ones and act as leaders. Uninterrupted Large block of time to explore is one of the fundamentals of the exploratory environment. Children need large blocks of time for play and free exploration.

According to Christie and Wardle (1992), short play periods may force children to abandon their imaginative or constructive play just when they begin to get involved. When this happens, a number of times, children may give up on more sophisticated forms of play and settle for less advanced forms. Shorter play periods reduce both the amount and the maturity of A children’s play, and many important benefits of play, such as persistence, negotiation, problem-solving, planning, and cooperation are lost.

Kids need a variety of adult experts to whom they can look for help and assistance when they want it. To prepare this unique environment we need to equip teachers with a different set of skills. Today’s teacher needs to be trained as an observer first before even taking a course of technical teaching skills. The teacher should always be there not as an instructor or dictator but as a scientific observer who specializes in observation skills, just to witness what’s going on, and then to predict what and where should he add. In the words of Maria Montessori, “Praise, help, or even a look, may be enough to interrupt him, or destroy the activity. It seems a strange thing to say, but this can happen even if the child merely becomes aware of being watched. After all, we too sometimes feel unable to go on working if someone comes to see what we are doing. The great principle which brings success to the teacher is: as soon as concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist. Naturally, one can see what he is doing with a quick glance, but without his being aware of it”.

Children are capable of leading their own learning process. The learner has all the capacity to build and construct his knowledge, all in their unique way of interacting with the new concept. The teacher task is nothing but to touch the imagination of a child so as to excite him to a level of curiosity, and then the learner is ready to explore in his own way depending on his interest, experiences, and specific hidden talents. Exploration leads to Discovery; the ultimate goal of education.

We as educationists should act as an independent researchers, we can always learn from the power of observation and discover the importance of play in the learning process. In a play, child does not discover any single fact but it’s a discovery of complex units woven perfectly in a way that he gets the idea which is needed to be learned. Complex calculations, estimations and cognition are all embedded in this learning process. The cry for a play-based curriculum is dated back to the first human who thought that child at play is a child alive.

By Erum

(Children Nature Network  Asia)

Erum is a specialist in Play based and Nature based learning, she advocates for the Right based education system in K-12, she is working with many International organizations to to promote Play a s right of a child, to enhance the importance of Education Diplomacy and to develop the unique Training Programs for educators and child care professionals.